Thursday, October 4, 2012

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And also ideas that we don't like. And albatrosses.

So, it's Banned Books Week, which means Librarian Rant, Motherfuckers!

Part One: Some Boring Statistics and Shit

First of all, there are probably quite a few people going "What? Ban books? This is America! Who the fuck does that shit anymore?"

Parents, mostly. Out of all the books that are ever challenged (read: bitched about in an attempt to ruin it for everybody), about half the time, it's parents who go "I don't want little Jimmy-Sue reading that; it's not wholesome!" Probably, they've never actually read the book themselves, but they heard it had a bad word in it or something. Then a bunch of other parents who haven't read it jump in and they form some kind of pitchfork mob and go storming into the next school board meeting demanding that the school board gets rid of the book, which probably they do. It never occurs to anybody to actually read the fucking thing, except maybe for the one part that somebody complained about, entirely out of context.

This is what happens roughly two-thirds of the time. Another quarter of the time, it's in a public library rather than a school, and they go to the local news rather than the school board, so that everybody can get all worked up over how those damn godless liberals are trying to corrupt the children with their books.

Part Two: "You can't read that! I don't like it!"

This is essentially the same as trying to get a McDonald's shut down because you're on a diet. Nobody forced you to go there, asshole.

Hey, let's all be afraid of ideas, because we wouldn't want to expose ourselves or our children to situations where they might have to fucking think! Also, let's ban mentioning anything unpleasant because knowing that something exists basically guarantees that you're immediately going to go and do it. This is why the media only ever report positive, life-affirming stories, and avoid topics like murder and armed robbery and war.

Here's an idea: parent, for fuck's sake. (Just your own kids, though—don't try to force your prudish bullshit values on everybody else.)

Part Three: Because of Reasons

There is a whole list of reasons why people try to get books banned. Usually, the actual content gets lumped under some generic term that does a shitty job of describing what you're missing out on. Fortunately, I've translated them for you so you can understand what's actually going on. You're welcome.

The top three reasons account for about half of all the books that get banned. I've listed them in order:

Sexually Explicit: The book acknowledges in any way that sex not only exists, but is something that people a) actually enjoy, and b) can do without a legally-binding contract. (cf. Sex Education)

Offensive Language means that one or more of the characters speaks a language other than English. (OK, that's not true. Actually, it means that the book contains certain combinations of syllables referring to parts or functions of the body which, when uttered or printed on a page, summon Satan to rip out your soul and defecate in the resultant void.)

Unsuited to Age Group: Occasionally, this means that somebody found a copy of the Kama Sutra in an elementary school's library. Usually, though, it means that the book's subject matter undermines parents' efforts to prevent their children from growing up by keeping them as innocent and oblivious as a six-year-old.

The rest I've done alphabetically. They are:

Abortion means that a character has or considers one, with little or no damnation as a consequence.

Anti-Family: 1) One or more of the characters in the book calls his or her parent on some kind of bullshit like abandoning all responsibility and forcing their children to take care of basically everything; 2) The book implies that a family can be defined as anything other than the "traditional" model of two heterosexual parents who were married in a church before ever having sex, and their legitimate offspring.

Homosexuality means that gay characters are referred to by names like "Jim" or "Steve," rather than "faggot," and are depicted doing normal-people things like going to work, rather than dying of AIDS and burning in Hell for all eternity.

Inaccurate means "I don't like what you wrote about me, even if it's true."

Nudity means that—you know what? I don't know what the fuck they mean by nudity. Maybe it mentions that somebody is naked in the book? Or describes body parts? How the fuck do you have nudity in print? Like an ASCII penis? This may be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard of.

The Occult, or Satanism: This means that either one of the characters is an atheist, or that somebody performs some kind of magic without explicitly invoking the name of Jesus.

Political Viewpoint means "not mine."

Racism denotes that the book depicts white people behaving in a racist manner. This is offensive because racism totally doesn't exist anymore, and mentioning it might inadvertently summon it back again (sort of like Beetlejuice or Bloody Mary), which would force white people–even the ones who have black friends–to prove that they're not racist.

Sex Education means that the book explains to anyone under the age of 30 that babies are not actually dumped down your chimney by a mystical love albatross, but instead come from having sex. It may or may not also explain that there are means to prevent this from happening other than eternal celibacy.

Suicide means that a character ends his or her own life, and that the rest of the book does not depict their eternal torment in the seventh circle of Dante's Inferno, but rather shows the other characters attempting to deal with the aftermath of the suicide.

Violence actually does just mean violence. It's the same shit they show all over TV, but more dangerous in print because reading actually engages the parts of your brain responsible for imagination, while TV encourages your brain to shut down; therefore, reading about violence makes people more likely to commit violence.

So that's censorship, to the best of my understanding. Come back tomorrow and I'll bitch about it some more teach you how not to be a dick to everybody else just because you read something you didn't like.

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